Gains & Losses
Elegy for Darkness

It is not easy to forgive the darkness.  Somewhere in a country
where the night lasts longer than music, my blind mother
turns on an electric lamp and wonders—How far is America?
My sister runs through bylanes searching for a way to reach home.
There are no easy answers to questions asked by a lamppost.  Three dogs
guard the entrance to the alleyway.  At lane's end, an iron gate
stands quieter than the night.  By the time your prayer is answered,
often it is too late.  Can someone compose a tune
which can make a locked gate sing?
You take out a pouch full of coins from your pocket and realize
there are no easy answers to every question you ask,
that it is not easy to forgive when the phone rings
and rings on the other end but no one replies.
In the fourth year of his silence, my father stands on the front porch,
an electric lamp shines above his bald head as he waves his hands.
A taxi disappears through mist.
A mailman cannot deliver the telegram before dawn.
"Deposit fifty cents before dialing your number."
"For international calls you must dial 011
then dial the country code and city code followed
by numbers you want to reach."
Memory searches for the code of the country
which wind has forgotten.  How many times can they
change the code of a city which forgot its own name?
There isn't always a reply to each call you make.  Once,
my sister rescued a blind dog from a dark lane.  It followed her
up to the iron gate.  The dog hesitated until invited.  My sister
poured some leftover rice on the concrete.  The dog ate making
the noises of an animal that hadn't eaten for days.  The concrete,
wet with the dog's saliva, shone under an electric lamp.
There are never any answers to questions asked by the wind.
"Once you get a job in America our lives will change."
"Mr. Banerjee promised to introduce you to someone
whose brother owns a business in Chicago".  Always the same
response to any job you apply for, "Check back in two months.
We may be hiring, then."  My sister gets off a gray bus
at a truck stop on a dusty street.  Unknown eyes shine in the lamplight
cast from the cigarette shop.  A tune on the evening radio
makes your blood swell.  How long does it take to pass through a dark lane
to reach the iron gate that always remains locked?
It is not easy to forgive the darkness when my mother's face is at the window.
She can't see but still looks out.  No easy answers, no easy consolation when
the plane fare is so much higher than you can afford and you know that by the time
you get there her flame will already be extinguished.
Some times you just hold ashes in your fist.
Sometimes you let them go on the night's breeze.

Copyright 2009,  Sankar Roy

Sankar Roy, originally from India, is a poet, translator, activist and multimedia artist.  He is a winner of PEN USA Emerging Voices.  Roy is author of three chapbooks of poetry:  Moon CountryThe House My Father Could Not Build,  and Mantra of the Born-free (all from Pudding House, 2006, 2007).  He is an associate editor of the anthology Only the Sea Keeps: Poetry of the Tsunami (Rupa Publications).

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